A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sailziveli

Still in Marathon

sunny 74 °F

Today is our seventh day here, having arrived on Tuesday, last. We've been occupied, if not exactly overwhelmed, with boat stuff. The "To Do" list seems never ending but boat rules do apply, working hours being from 0900 to 1500, or so, with an adequate allowance for lunch. The weather here has been great. A front blew through last Wednesday afternoon; when the wind had calmed down a little I turned on the anemometer .... over 35 knots. The weather reports had gusts of 50~60 knots, hurricane force. The front also brought cooler weather, mid 50's at night .... good for Carol, but I demanded, and got, the recently stored blanket back on my side of the bed.

The cruising world has gotten considerably smaller this past week.

  • Case #1 We have a friend, Debbie, who keeps her boat in Oriental, NC, when she is not cruising, Oriental being where we first met her. We knew that she had not headed south this year. I was over at the common room in the marina using their electricity to recharge the batteries for the cordless drill, needed for an up coming project. Some lady on the other side of the room jumped up and started saying my name; I did not recognize her from the distance so walked over to see her and then .... Debbie. She, literally, had been reading the blog at the table to find out where we were when she saw me walking by. What an unexpected pleasure. Jeanette had invited her to "crew" on her boat, it was cold in Oriental, so Debbie flew to Florida and got to Marathon. Good plan! Anyway, the four of us went out Saturday night to the Sea Food Festival. The two of them are also headed, generally, in the same directions so we may travel together some of the way, or not. But we'll definitely be seeing them along the way. Jeanette has a dog on board so I may offer to swap Carol for the dog, but only for an afternoon. I've been missing Wile E and could use a doggy fix.

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  • Case #2 Our friends, Bruce and Dawn, who recently sold their boat and moved to Arkansas, emailed that they have some friends in Marathon that they wanted us to meet, no details given. So, Saturday, I was watching the ACC/SEC tournaments and met two very nice people who are from Raleigh, NC. It turns out that their boat is moored, maybe, 100-ft. or so from ours and that these are the two folks that we were supposed to meet. They are also headed on a similar course so we may sail with them or see them along the way. Go Figure!

Saturday night Sue and Jay were feeling a little better so invited us to join them for supper, which we, of course did. The four of us with Opie and J.T., friends of Sue and Jay.

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The evening plan was to see Fiona Molloy, who was playing at the clubhouse at their campground. We enjoyed listening to her Irish music in Key West two years ago (01/17/09 blog) so this seemed like a great idea. The last time we saw her, she was performing by herself; this time she had just played at an Irish festival in Key Largo and had a supporting cast. She was great, and entertaining, as usual. She also had a piper with her, who treated us to three bagpipe pieces. Never having heard the pipes in person, I was surprised that they actually sounded really good but, maybe, three songs was about the right number. What blew us away were the Irish folk dancers, Riverdance, was right there in front of us. Having seen the folk dancing on TV was no comparison to seeing it live, 20 feet away. The only other similar experience I've had was the Taiko drums in Japan; they stirred the blood in person in a way that no recording ever could.

There were four young people, three women and a man. The first dance was with soft shoes, akin to ballet slippers. It was good. Then they started with the hard soled shoes and the metal taps on front and back and it was great. Being that close, we got the feel for how strenuous the dancing is ... a lot of physical work. And, the kids were really good, very well choreographed, very well practiced together; they made it look kind of easy, which it is definitely not. During a break, one of them came over to talk and Jay tried some of the moves; I did not try knowing full well that white men in their 60's cannot jump and they also cannot dance. These are the girls and each of the dresses is unique, hand made and very beautiful. It was a wonderful experience.

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So, mostly, we are waiting for packages to arrive while we wait for the weather to arrive. I remember talking to Rodney in Ft. Lauderdale about boat projects. We both agreed that the logistics of acquiring all the parts and pieces for a project was harder than the actual work involved.

We had a minor miracle the other day. Probably the most well known guy in the Caribbean area is Chris Parker, who forecasts the weather and broadcasts his prognostications over the SSB radio six days a week. For most cruisers that are outside US waters, listening to his forecasts is a daily event. We've been trying, literally for several years, to listen in to his broadcasts but have never succeeded until Thursday when we finally heard him loud and clear. This, more or less, answers the question we've always had: does the SSB radio work properly. It will be nice to know that this resource is available when we get to the Bahamas. The Bahamas also have a meteorology department that runs a website with good weather information if you can get an internet connection.

Today, Tuesday, a small disaster struck. The foresail had slack along the luff (forward) edge which pretty well messed up any sail trim aspirations for the bottom third of the sail. After having gone up the mast to check the top end of the mechanism, we decided to take down the sail to check out the halyard and the hoist car. It was way too windy, well over 10 knots, to do this but there was no better day in the forecast. Carol released the tension on the line and ..... BOING! Down comes the sail into a pile on the deck, but there's only about one foot of halyard attached, the rest having fallen inside the mast. The halyard had, quite literally, shredded in two. The problem area was inside the mast, behind the sheave where I could not see it on the trip to the top of the mast. Not a good deal but, after a long while, when I had stopped swearing at things, it dawned on me that this was going to happen the next time we put out the sails. Having the problem happen at a secure mooring, not under way and with a West Marine a mile away was not such a bad thing. So with the help of Paul, a boat neighbor who offered help, we got me back up the mast, ran a pilot line through the mast and fished it out, and installed a new halyard. When we got the sail back up there was no slack on the luff edge so the problem was cured, just not the way we thought. It takes a few minutes to get the sail up and while it was exposed to the wind, still too much wind to be doing this, the boat was moving hard enough that I thought that we might tear out the mooring ball. In the event, we did not, but a boat close to us was leaving the mooring field and Carol said that they were startled by the raised sail. If you're that high up you ought to take a picture, so I did. We'll probably replace most of the old running rigging in the next few days.

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After that the only preparation will be topping off the fuel and water. I was talking to Jack, a motor vessel guy, and he said that with marine diesel above $4.00 a gallon he wasn't enjoying filling tanks where consumption was measured in gallons per hour. We last fueled in Vero Beach, maybe a month ago, have traveled a couple of hundred miles, run the motor a few hours to charge the batteries and have used about 12 gallons of diesel. I'll try to remember that the next time I gripe about how slowly we motor.

Now, we're just waiting for a weather window, which always seems to be just around the corner. First it was going to be Monday, 03/21; now it may be Wednesday or Thursday, 03/24~25. Or, it may be in April. So, we'll get everything stowed to await the lucky day. Last year all the possible boat companions wanted to make the trip in two days, going back east to Rodriguez Key and from there to the Bahamas. So, we traveled alone. This year it seems quite a few boats want to go directly from Marathon to Bimini so we may have some company. That would be an interesting first for us, never having traveled with another boat.

The next blog entry will be from the Bahamas, whenever we get there.

Posted by sailziveli 09:03 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Getting to Marathon

Or, Not

sunny 62 °F

We got underway from Dinner Key Marina will before sunrise on Sunday morning. It's 7~8 miles to the open water through Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne Channel, which we have always used. This morning, our luck was not so good, making very poor time against strong headwinds and a filling tide. In almost three hours we were still a short ways from the open water. Along the way we heard some talk on VHF 16 between sailboats that had tried to go outside and had said that the weather was just too much, very high seas, and those boats were bigger than ours. I was less concerned about the waves than our speed. There was no scenario that got us to the next anchorage in daylight; some had us there well after midnight. So, we turned around, doubling our speed, and headed through the Cape Florida Channel, something we had never done, and checked out No Name Harbor; having seen and heard that several boats had left, we thought that there might be room for us, which there was.

Anchoring in this small place is like anchoring in a Wal-Mart parking lot without the benefit of white lines and arrows. You have to swing on a short scope, not ideal, in order not to bump into other boats, poor boating etiquette. As soon as we had anchored, and I thought a good job, the four boats closest to us left leaving us with, relatively, an embarrassment of room. I doubt that this place is as large as our 18 acres but, being small, there's no need for the motor on the dinghy; we just rowed the 100-ft. to the sea wall. It is also a very sheltered anchorage which is unusual in these parts.

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This has been an interesting, unplanned stop. We knew about No Name Harbor as a departure point for cruisers going to the Bahamas and had assumed that cruisers were the only visitors; not so. There is a small restaurant, where Carol had lunch, and we probably were the only people there using English. There has been a constant stream of local boaters over for the day, to eat at the restaurant, to go to the park, just to hang out. There must be 30 or more boats tied to the seawall, and several more rafted two and three deep to those boats. There were some sailboats that had spent Saturday night before leaving on Sunday afternoon. Lots of families with kids. We would not have guessed that this place was as popular a destination as it seems to be had we not been here on a weekend.

The other thing that was novel was to be around this many casual boaters. Our whole experience has been interacting with dedicated sailors, either serious boaters with lots of experience or, folks like us, who want to learn to be serious boaters. There was no damage done that we could see but there could have been a lot of funny videos of the clueless and the incompetent. I was probably the only nervous guy around. For all the traffic during the day, when the restaurant closed at 9 pm, there were only 7~8 boats that stayed the night in the anchorage.

A front is due through the area later today which will shift the winds from south to northeast, perfect for sailing to the Keys from here. Maybe Monday will be the charm. That does not, however, mean that we can expect any room in Marathon. The Gulf Stream has been in a boil for over a week now and there is little prospect that boats will have been inclined to leave.

On Monday, before sunrise, we had the anchor up and were underway for the keys. The day was delightful; sunny and calm, placid, i.e. no wind. So we motored the 40 miles to Rodriguez Key. Two other sailboats from No Name Harbor, as usual, passed us along the way. If our boat ever had to develop a descriptive motto it would be: First to Leave, Last to Arrive, but Who Cares. It was interesting. On Sunday night all three boats were anchored within 100 yards of each other; ditto for Monday night as the three of us all anchored in the lee of the island.

As is our wont, we were the again the first to leave on Tuesday and were rewarded with this beautiful sunrise. It was a little disorienting after the other anchorages to poke our heads out in the morning and to see at least half of the horizon as open water; it really felt like were were on a boat.

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Tuesday there was wind, the sails were all the way out and no other sailboats overtook us. We made it to Marathon in good time and there was room at the inn; maybe more like the stable as we are at the end of the mooring field, a long way from the the showers. But it's secure and the dinghy ride is no big deal.

The Tuesday leg of the trip was notable, for me anyway, in that I overcame a bete noire. For three and a half years there has been water accumulating on the port side of the engine compartment; the sources have been deviling me. The first layer of the onion was a seeping through hull; fixed that. The second layer was the leaky shaft seal; fixed that, too. I could find no hose or connection that was leaking until Tuesday when I finally saw the drip. This is like a headline saying, "Wile E. Coyote Finally Eats the Road Runner." The problem flowed from an antisiphon valve through a small hose, so buried among other hoses and power cables as to be invisible. A new valve is going to arrive today, maybe, and I'll extend the hose several yards to the bilge sump. After three and a half years .... a dry boat.

We have yet to see Sue and Jay; they are both under the weather and it sounds a lot like what Carol and I had in January. I really hope that's not the case so that they can enjoy the rest of their stay in Florida. We have projects galore, stuff for the boat as well as doctors and tax preparers, so we'll be here a while longer. If the weather permits, we might be ready to leave mid to late next week.

Posted by sailziveli 09:32 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating Comments (0)

Miami Beach, Part Deux

sunny 73 °F

Monday night the high winds started and with the winds came high seas. So, we are still sitting in Sunset Lake waiting for better weather, which probably will not arrive until late Saturday. This is still a pretty good place to wait things out: reasonably sheltered, particularly from east winds which we are now having; very good holding, no problems to date with the anchor dragging despite the winds; South Beach is just a short dinghy ride away; there is a Publix and a Walgreen's very close by.

Not too much activity going on. Carol has done laundry and shopping; I repaired the toilet which was working but not right. After the great lipstick inspired toilet rebuild I noticed that a valve unit was working OK but not working as it had before; in addition we had an irritating leak around the piston seal, salt water, not as bad as some other possibilities but it required running the shower pump every couple of days to remove the accumulation ... not very shipshape. The Raritan toilet is a sufficient mystery to me that we actually have hard copies and PDF files of the parts list and the owners manual. Unfortunately, in this instance I had to consult the manual on how to repair both problems. On the down side, I have broken faith with generations of men, past and future, who all eschew instructions of any kind; on the plus, side the thing now works right and does not leak. Not a bad trade off, except for the fact that in fixing two old problems I created at least one new problem, maybe a gasket that didn't seat properly.

Carol has proven beyond all doubt that she is a Spring Creek kind of woman, and thoroughly grounded in the middle class. We went out to dinner the other night and were walking along Alton Road at about 5 PM when traffic was getting heavier and the traffic backed up at stop lights was getting longer. In the long line of stalled traffic Carol saw a two seater, white convertible which caught her attention. After cursorily looking at the two young women in the car, moderately attractive but extremely well kept, she noted the car which was very stunning. Being a regular lady she saw the silver horse logo and started rambling on about the newly designed (Ford) Mustang and how much she liked it. She had the horse part almost right, except for the small fact that the horse was rampant, not galloping, and the car was a Ferarri, not a Ford. She can be forgiven this, I guess, since we have owned both '64 and '71 Mustangs. (the one on the left is Ferarri)

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Anyway, we had a nice walk along South Beach, Collins Avenue, and a good dinner. I got to do a little EMT stuff; a chef had cut his finger severely and I told him to keep the hand elevated, above the heart. After eight months of being rigorous in my diet, I was abetted, enabled even, in stopping at Epicure on the way back to the boat and getting a pot pie sized key lime pie which Carol and I split. Delightful to the max!

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On Saturday morning we decided to move, positioning ourselves for a quick exit from Biscayne Bay. Given our choices, Carol opted to go to Dinner Key Marina, as we have the past two trips. This time, however, she also told me how much we pay to stay there. Ouch! It's sort of like checking into the Ritz-Carlton but not getting the Frango mint on your pillow; in fact they don't even give you a pillow. On the plus side, we actually got to use the big, sticky-up part in the middle of the boat for about a second. Once we cleared into Biscayne Bay we had about 2.5 miles to the marina channel, so we ran out the sails and flew in 20 knots winds.

This is race week in Miami, some sort of Bacardi Cup event for smaller, 20~24-ft. open cockpit sailboats, of the type that might race in the Olympics. We saw these boats out practicing as we headed to the marina. They are very, very fast for having not very long water lines. In the heavy winds this morning they were actually getting a little bit airborne as the leaped over small waves. But the fastest sail on the water belonged to the sail boarders. With the high winds they may have been going 20 mph.

So, on Sunday we head south hoping to hit Marathon on Monday and, also, hoping that they have room at the inn. As we did not move during the high winds neither did any boats in Boot Key Harbor head for the Bahamas. If that doesn't work, we'll head to Newfound Harbor roughly halfway between Marathon and Key West. We will see cousin Sue and Jay, hang out for a while, and hope for an early weather window to head for the Bahamas. Key West may not be on the trip plsan this year.

Postscript: I was, perhaps, insufficiently generous in words in describing Steve. I should have said that he has a graceful charm, an amusing and gentle wit and a perspicacious insight into all things social, political and philosophical, all of which is actually true.

Posted by sailziveli 19:12 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Miami Beach

sunny 78 °F

As we were sitting around in Ft. Lauderdale thinking about when to leave, we noticed that the engine had rolled another 100 hours and it was time for our scheduled maintenance, mostly changing fluids, belts, filters, et. alia. However, when I was doing my topside inspection I noticed that the pin which holds the boom to the mast had worked its way loose and was way too close to falling out. Major Issue! The downside could have been horrible .... the boom swinging free, under full sail, crushing everything in its path, and we would have been unable to recover the sail to stop the damage. The proximate cause: a cotter pin that, maybe, was never there, or, maybe, was lost since we have owned the boat. Regardless, it was something at which I have never even looked . It was a very easy fix, but the boom had to be disconnected from the mast to reposition the holding pin. We now have it on the 100 hour maintenance list and have a supply of very large cotter pins just in case.

The mechanical issues continued to Thursday, the day we left for Miami. We had been having an issue with the transmission cable disconnecting when going from reverse to forward quickly; the disconnection put the transmission in forward, no access to neutral or reverse . I had thought that I made the proper adjustments in Brunswick …. not so! With folks on the dock to handle our lines it happened again, the result being that I rammed the bow into the dock at a pretty good power level. No style points from the audience. It’s a rather simple adjustment which I quickly made after tearing apart the back cabin to get to the cable. I think that I’ll replace the cable portion of the mechanism; it cannot be a very expensive part.

The trip through the three bridges was not overly traumatic and things were going pretty well until a white, fiberglass version of the USS North Carolina approached from the other direction. We got very small and, almost, were so far over that we could have moored at a starboard side dock.

The trip into and out of Port Everglades entails going under a bascule bridge that has a 55-ft. vertical clearance. Our mast is a little over 51-ft. high and with the sundry things on top probably goes to 53-ft. Every time we pass under this bridge the heart just seems naturally to move up to the mouth.

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On the way out we passed these two sailboats, the largest which we have ever seen. I got on the radio to see if the owners wanted to swap, offering the lower mooring and maintenance fees of our 36-ft. boat. No takers, which is good, since we probably could not have afforded 24-hours of ownership for either of these boats. But ….. oh, the dreams.
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The trip to the Miami channel is a modest 20-nm, something that we should have been able to transit, with the good wind that we had, in less than 4-hours. In the event, it was 5.5-hours, two of those aided by the motor. Despite this being the 3d year we have made the same trip, I still have not got it into my aging brain that the western edge of the Gulf Stream is only 5~7 miles off shore. When I moved from 300-ft. of depth to less than 100-ft. we gained 2.0 knots. And we needed to be much closer to shore that, maybe in 20-ft. to escape the Gulf Stream GLUE that always slows us down. Maybe, next year, we’ll get it right, or not. Sometimes, it is more interesting to curse the darkness than to light a candle.

On the way south we saw this boat towing a tender that probably cost more than our boat did.

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The trip into the channel was, again, frustrating, the three gerbils working extremely hard, and not succeeding, to make 3.0 knots against the flowing tide. For the first time I actually thought about a new, more powerful engine along with a larger prop to push the boat. Way too expensive to contemplate.

We made good time once we were “inside” and caught the 1700 bridge opening to get to Sunset Lake which meant that we could anchor before sunset. When we approached the lake through the channel we saw that all the several sailboats in the anchorage were in the southern half, good for us because there is a nice wide point on the northern half. It struck us as unusual bit did not really click. As we maneuvered the boat to drop the anchor some guy was yelling at Carol to move away from where we were or that he would bother us with loud music. We did move a little north, away from his house, but that was for our purposes, not his.

This was our first anchor exercise in about a year. Anchoring, for us, is always a challenge …. low confidence and bad memories. We had changed the anchor, while in Ft. Lauderdale, putting the big Danforth/Fortress out, one which we know to work well in Sunset Lake. Despite this, the boat at anchor was not behaving in a predictable manner, i.e. the bow never swung into the wind, at the time being almost 180 degrees to the wind.

So, we kept the motor running for a good while as we studied our boat, to see if the anchor was really, firmly set. We were about 98% sure that it was, but the other 2% can bite the backside. While we were sitting around doing this, the man on his dock made good his promise to bombard us with music, in this case, very bad, very loud RAP music which is not very musical. If he could have found a Bob Seger CD I might have asked him to turn up the volume. As darkness fell, he upped the ante: shining a very bright strobe spotlight on the boat.

While this was going on a couple came over in their dinghy to comment that they had also suffered similar actions and that they had moved as a consequence. It was dark and we were not moving and I was getting into a typical male combative posture. So, rather than go to his place and do something stupid, I turned on the wifi hot spot, got out the iPad and found a non-emergency number for the Miami Beach P.D. I expected them to be polite but to blow us off, he is a local tax payer, after all. I explained the situation and said that we were being harassed. They were very polite and even called back for some additional information. They wanted to know where the house is; I gave a pretty good location from the lakeside but did not expect them to locate it with a patrol car.

Miracle of miracles … in about an hour a police patrol boat motors past ours. The two officers had no trouble finding the offending location. In fact, they too may not have liked the music because on went the flashing blue lights and the siren. Pretty cool! A few minutes later the music died (it should have been buried, too); soon after that the light went off. The police were there for 15~20 minutes so, things must have happened. Our night was quiet and dark. And, back to that male thing .... I won!!!

Still concerned about the anchor, when the bladder alarm went off at its usual 0330, I put out more chain and put on the chain snubber. We held firm and rode well through the night.

The next morning we saw these three guys out for their morning exercise? They look to be surfboards propelled by a long paddle with a single blade. Carol noted that their clothing was all dry so no one had fallen off his board.

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On the plus side of mechanical issues:

  • Tightening the hose clamps seems to have done the trick for the shaft seal. We stayed dry from Ft. Pierce to Ft. Lauderdale and again to Miami.
  • The new oil pan seal and new oil pressure alarm sender unit cured the minor oil drips that we had.
  • The refrigeration guy seems to have broken the code with his repairs; amp hour usage is now back in the 5 amp range, at which the unit is rated, but it still cycles a lot.

On Friday we lowered the dinghy and motor and got ready to leave the boat and to go ashore. Carol and I have been doing this for about three years now and if in the improbable even that we had to abandon ship I'm afraid that it would not go well for Carol. Based on three years of direct observation, Carol cannot leave the boat without: (1) drinking a Coke; (2) evacuating the prior Coke that she drank; (3) changing her shoes; (4) selecting the proper hat; (5) applying yet another layer of sun screen; (6) selecting which pair of gloves to take since she will be touching the dinghy line. The list omits the mundane aspects of purse selection and organization. At least she does change the order of events to keep it interesting.

The first stops were a Walgreens and a Publix grocery store. Very pedestrian. There is a fairly good "inner city" hardware store on Alton Road; this was the first trip to Miami where we did not have a long list of things to buy. In fact, we just don't have that many open boat projects, a rarity. We stopped at Epicure where Carol was prepared to spend hours without actually buying anything. She wanted to buy some ceviche but it didn't taste like supper, maybe an appetizer.

The Lincoln Road Mall was next. This has to be one of the best places ever for people watching. I wish that I had a little of Studs Terkel's ability to capture a city, his was Chicago, through its people. The mall strikes me as that sort of place. It's such a contrast ... the Rodeo Drive wannabe fashion mecca at one end and where the traffic starts again you are in the souk somewhere in the Levant, where Lebanese or Tunisians or whomever run camera and luggage stores and bargain on their wares as if they were the fabled carpets of the orient.

We had a nice lunch in the wannabe section, only moderately over priced and the wait staff was actually pleasant even if the hostess was not.

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For folks that are proud to live in Spring Creek, and we are, it is like entering an alternate universe. Many of the people are very stylish and sleek, Carol noting several women that could have been, and maybe were, professional models. Walking along the wannabe section Carol said that one guy checked me out pretty thoroughly; I'm all in favor of multi-culturism but not at that personal a level. The people on the mall are a fascinating brew with youth, looks and money being the ingredients that play out in individual measures. The rules of the game seem to be that if you have one, or more, of the ingredients then flaunt it; if not, then try to fake it; and for those old souls like us .... forget it.

Along the way we passed a church, United Church of Christ, which we had "seen" before but never noticed. It struck me a a beautiful in its unadorned simplicity. It's an old-ish building with wonderful wood construction, probably Southern Long Leaf Pine, the dark color coming from wood stain.

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We made it to the beach, for a minute or two, before Carol headed for the shade and a bathroom. For both she chose the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Carol seems to have the innate genetic ability to go anywhere, at least in the northern hemisphere, and locate the nearest bathroom and source of Coca-Cola both of which are existential issues for her.

On the way back we walked on the other side of the mall to get to a place we visit every year, almost a pilgrimage: the Peter Lik studio. With apologies to Ansel Adams et. al. he takes the most remarkable nature photos that I have ever seen, and that fact alone would make his oeuvre distinctive. But, beyond that, he enlarges the photos, sometimes to 4/5-ft. on a dimension, somehow prints the pictures on glass or a clear laminate, then mounts them over a light box which back lights the art. The back lighting adds special drama. 30 years of my best photos cannot equal one of his mundane shots. I finally got the courage to ask the sales person the cost of for a piece: $3,000 to $8,000 for some of the smaller works, up to $95,000 for some of the limited edition pieces. Peter Lik Photos

When we got back to the boat it was time for my first "cruisers bath" of this trip. I wanted to check the zinc on the propeller shaft and bath time seemed a good time to do it. The bath consists of putting on a Speedo bathing suit, at least in a populated area which this is, and jumping into the water from the stern, wash down in salt water, and try to rinse the salt off with a teaspoon to a cup of fresh water in a camp shower bag. Despite the fact that the water is relatively warm, it's still not a hot bath; my affinity for warm means that easing into the water can take hours .... a direct plunge is the only way to overcome the temperature. The salt water bath is not a very complicated process but there have still been learning opportunities: (1) do not, ever, ever, rinse the razor in salt water because your face will take a long time to heal from the shave the next day; (2) bars of Irish Spring soap do not float, even for a nanosecond. Carol's cruising ablutions are a mystery to me and I hope that they remain so.

On Saturday we visited another cousin, one of Carol's, Bill with whom she grew up in Coral Gables. It was a nice visit and Bill drove us by the house where Carol grew up. She, more or less, recognized the front wall as still being kind of original. The rest of the house had been subjected to the tear down huge-erator and had become just another McMansion. Still, in all, better than the fate of my former house which was razed to the ground. It is Florida after all.

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More excitement on a Saturday morning: Carol managed, somehow, to break a critical part of the toilet without which it doesn't work. This was a piece that is not supposed to break, so we had no replacement (it is injection molded plastic and there was a void in the plastic where it broke). Si, hay problema! Replacing turned out to be very expensive .... not for the part whose cost was nominal but to rent a car and to drive to Ft. Lauderdale which was where the only replacement could be found. It seemed a fair price to pay after 24 hours of actually having a pot to pee in.

We have noticed a new(?) thing this year. Many of the huge yachts we've seen have been home ported/registered in Bikini, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where Georgetown in the Cayman Islands had seemed to dominate. A quick internet search came up with the unsurprising result that taxes do matter to people who can afford these types of boats.

We want to head to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon, FL, but that inn is full. There is also weather headed our way and all of the anchorages we might use in the keys will be very exposed so, we guess, that we'll stay here for a while and wait to see what happens. The anchorage is fairly protected so that is not a bad choice.

Posted by sailziveli 09:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ft. Lauderdale

sunny 79 °F

I wanted to leave on Sunday, Carol on Monday when the weather would have been a sure thing. But it was cold on Saturday night, 40 degrees, and another similar temperature was in the offing. I carefully checked the weather before setting out. 10~15 knots diminishing as the day goes on. We had met an experienced sailor who said always add another 10 knots to that. Today, this might have been good advice. We heard an extreme weather notice on the VHF from the USCG in Miami. I thought that that was for about 150 miles south of us, which it was. After listening more closely it was clear that they were reading a report about 24- hours old. My reading was that the hard center of the high pressure passed us on Saturday and was to the south. It would move away from us faster than we would move toward it, and that things would calm down in the late afternoon. In the event, that is exactly what happened, but I cut it too close.

We saw these brown pelicans roosting in trees near the mooring field entrance. Despite having seen pelicans on all manner of places it had never occurred to me that they would also roost in trees. Their great webbed feet just don't seem to be made for that sort of thing.

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We got underway from the marina at 0800 and cleared the Ft. Pierce inlet before 1100 having the benefit, again, of a running tide and a tail wind. The inlet at Ft. Pierce is one which I have come to dislike. The currents and winds can be difficult at best, treacherous at worst, for an underpowered vessel such as ours. Today did not disappoint. The good news was that the tide was running out which meant that we had almost enough speed to manage the exit. The wind was strong from the north and it was a lot of work to try to stay on the north side of the channel. There is a stretch, maybe a mile, from being in inland waters to the sea buoy that is hard. Today, once again, the waves were breaking over the top of the canvas on the cockpit, burying the bow and just generally making things difficult.

There were clues about the ocean that I should have noticed. The inlet on a weekend morning usually looks like I-95; today, not so much. There was only a boat or two near the inlet and both of those were well inside the breakwater. We were the only boat leaving and the only one on the open water, having this section of the coast to ourselves for several hours until we saw a few small pleasure craft in the late afternoon.

On the way out, at the difficult transition point we saw these guys doing, what? Para-surfing, maybe? Regardless, it looked pretty cool so I had to take a picture and let Carol manage the boat.

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When things started to attenuate, wind and waves, we got escorted, off and on, by several porpoise, sometimes just two, other times as many as four. Sailors being a superstitious lot, these seemed like a very good omen. But the ride was a rough one for several hours.

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We made really good time heading south, very unexpected .... usually the Gulf Stream slows us down a lot. We hit the Port Everglades sea buoy at 0730, several hours earlier than planned. Unfortunately, the marina on the New River has very swift currents, so they recommend mooring at slack water, in this case 1330. So we tooled around a bit in the open water. It was an interesting time for observations:

  • This vessel was anchored just outside the channel entrance. It is a floating dry dock with a motor attached into which people drive their boats for delivery to another location (the hull says: Dockwise Yacht Transport). I had never heard of such a thing. The financial implications of this activity are beyond my imagination.

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  • This is a sport fisherman, a very common style of boat in these waters. What struck us as different was that he was using kite type devices to run his fishing lines away from the boat.

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  • While we were going in circles two Navy ships, maybe destroyers or frigates, exited the harbor and took up a station a couple of miles off shore. They were communicating on VHF 16, just like any other craft. All of a sudden we heard this statement on the radio, "This is warship 57 off your starboard bow. What are your maneuvering intentions?" Some poor guy, for whom English was probably a fourth language, allowed as how he was going to get out of the way, and right now, lest the situation devolve to a weapons test.

The trip up the New River was again tense. However, this was on a Monday morning and there were very few pleasure craft about, although there were enough commercial tour boats to make things interesting. There are three bascule bridges in 3/4 of a mile with the marina occupying both sides of the last bridge. Once again I heard the captain of one of the tour boats say something nasty over his speaker system about my "driving."

We like the marina despite the tortuous, sinuous trip up the New River. The physical setting is gorgeous and Carol seemingly cannot get over the fact that she's sitting on the boat looking at palm trees of which there is a profusion.

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Ft. Lauderdale is probably the pleasure boat repair capital of the east coast, at least from the Chesapeake to the keys. So we are are availing ourselves of the many service alternatives. We are having a Westerbeke dealer replace the oil pan gasket .... called on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday it's being done. Hard to believe. The gasket was a project that I considered doing myself; but I was afraid the I might carelessly torque the head of a bolt and have a $10,000 problem. Seeing what this guy is doing, convinces me that it's good to let the pro carry the load. Later in the week someone will take a look at the refrigeration unit.

This stop, as last year, is a working time, trying to get issues resolved and changes made prior to the Keys and the Bahamas. We have a lot of things to accomplish so, to that end, we're rented a car for a couple of days. Carol seems excited to be able to SHOP making plans to visit every store and to buy everything, just like at home.

This whole boating thing continues to amaze. We arrived on Monday so I walked down the dock to see if Bruce's boat was still here, Bruce being a man we met last year and with whom we enjoyed some evenings. It was, so, remaking the acquaintance, we went out to dinner with him and an old high school friend, also named Bruce. It was a very nice evening. They are off for the Bahamas in the next day or two.

Today, Thursday, I was sitting in the cockpit reading the paper, on the iPad, when a sailboat pulled into the marina. The boat looked vaguely familiar in the way that all sailboats look vaguely familiar. This afternoon the guy, having seen Oriental, NC on our stern came down to chat. Their boat, Escapade, was one which we knew in its earlier incarnation as the Blind Date, moored about 5 or 6 slips down from us at Whittaker Pointer Marina in Oriental, NC. Not only did we know the boat, but we knew many of the same people, almost like old home week. They had bought the boat from Carol and Ashley. A very small world, indeed.

The view from the cockpit has not disappointed this year. There has been a constant cavalcade of boats, going and coming, which make ours look like the proverbial rubber ducky in the bath tub .... they are all either huge, humongous or leviathanesque. The boat density along the seawall is much less this year than last. Our speculation is that the Miami Boat Show is this weekend and many boats are headed south for the event. Carol and I, in our rubber ducky, are avoiding the whole thing while we try to complete projects on the boat.

Had a refrigeration guy come by on Friday, another of the checkpoints for Ft. Lauderdale. He did some stuff, draining, then evacuating the system. Things seem to be better but the change won't be apparent until we get off shore power.

Saturday was mostly for work and then for visiting. A friend who I knew in Boca Raton and with whom I went to HS in Delray Beach, came by for a visit. It was the second time I have seen him in 35~40 years. We are both, predictably, older and not even close to being our former tennis playing selves. I never, in all those years, beat Steve at tennis or ping pong; Steve was, for a while, a teaching tennis pro. But, he is the only person who has ever beat me playing ping pong left handed, or other handed. It is interesting and comforting that the thread which has connected us over distance and decades is still there. I will have to try to find a way to strengthen this connection. In our lives and in our lives together Carol and I have had much good fortune in our friends.

The security at this marina is, almost, over the top. Police patrol cars are through frequently as are cars from a private security company. There have been mounted police patrols and on the weekend police boats. Carol, and others, go to the shower, maybe 100-ft. away, in robes or pajamas with no concerns. And, like in many other marinas we have revisited, many of the same boats rest in the same slips in which we saw them last year. The boat on our starboard side has, by rumor, been sitting there for 14 years. If you had to pick a place to stay, this is not too bad. The weather has been beyond delightful, maybe a dozen raindrops one evening when a dark cloud blew over. I don't think that we have hit 80 degrees yet, but we have come close. Ft Lauderdale has all of the benefits of Miami without any of the apparent intensity. The marina also has some local interest like these characters:

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So, now we're waiting for a new cockpit LED light to arrive and for the boat show congestion to clear out of Miami. Our next stop, Sunset Lake, is probably very crowded with boats, being quite close to the convention center in Miami Beach. So, maybe Wednesday, maybe Thursday we'll make the 4/5 hour run south and stay there a few days before heading to the Keys.

Posted by sailziveli 12:28 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Florida Farrago #2

sunny 57 °F

Life by the bridge is no so bad. This was a pleasant sunset on a clear evening. Many days the bow has been pointed north which means that the cockpit faces the bridge. It has been interesting to people watch the bridge. There are a surprising number of folks going across the bridge .... not in cars, perhaps because the weather is cooler now. Most people, from the way the dress and the way they move, are exercising, the majority running, some walking, very few on bicycles; women outnumber men by 3:1 or more. I'm guessing that things change in August. Neither Carol or I have been inspired to demur on riding the bus in favor of walking.

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So, we remain in Vero Beach, waiting. Waiting for a weather window, which will not come for at least two more days; waiting for news from the Ft. Lauderdale Municipal Marina that they have a slot, somewhere, that will accommodate the boat. It's not so bad; as Milton said, "They also serve who only stand and wait." He must have owned a boat, too.

But life has not been dull. The other night we had nothing particular to do. Seeing the lights on at a nearby baseball field, we decided to dinghy over top watch the game. No game, just practice; back to the dinghy we went. As is our wont, I got in first and got the motor going; Carol, as is her wont, released the line securing the dinghy to the dock and started her unique butt-shuffle to slither into the dinghy .... first her feet, which in this case only pushed the dinghy farther from the dock. Since she had released the line there was no way to bring the dinghy closer, so it kept moving away, feet on the dinghy, hands on the dock, and her large center of gravity hanging in the balance. Being weak in the arms, the balance only lasted a nonce and down she went, the rest of her following her large center of gravity into the water which was deep but not too cold. She still had her hands on the dock, so no problems there, embarrassing but not dangerous. She does work very hard to keep me amused. The good news ..... this time she did not deep six the cell phone as she did in Norfolk, VA, saltwater dunkings and electronics being incompatible.

Part of the reason that we are still here is weather coming through, which just hit the mooring field. It was interesting. In about a minute the wind shifted from south to north, literally whipping the boat around; the wind velocity doubled and the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees, maybe more.

The last couple of days have not been great .... cool, cloudy. Since this has not been conducive to projects, Carol and I have just stayed on the boat with books in our hands. We'e are going through way too many books here, imperiling our supply for later in the trip. Most marinas have a common room with the typical 6-ft. x 3-ft. RTA bookcase or two. The informal protocol is bring some, take some. There are always some books that never get taken, e.g. book #2 of the really silly science fantasy trilogy about something or another. But here in Vero Beach there has been a fairly high turnover of boats coming and going, those coming into the marina having new fodder for the mix. So we have been breaking even in numbers. Cruisers have very low standards of what they will read, the basic requirement being that the book, for most, be in English. Today I was plundering the shelves and saw the spine of a book which I had read this week and had no specific memory of any detail of plot or character. That was, I hope, a failing of plot and character on the part of the author and not a senior moment for me. (When in doubt, blame the other guy)

While we were at Les & Jean's the issue of real estate came up, as it must in this part of the country. St. Lucie county has been hit very hard. I spent some time on Zillow.com looking at housing in the area and was stunned. A person can buy a 3/4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage house of 1,500~1,800 sq. ft. for less than $100,000, well below the replacement cost. And, there are lots of choices, no need to stand in line. The recovery has not yet hit this part of Florida.

I suppose that every boat has a story and some, behind the story, have a dream. People watching in the marina is interesting .... sometimes you just cannot imagine what the story is, unlike ours, which is very pedestrian.

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This boat, 46-ft. is probably the largest monohull here. I don't think that there is an archetype physiognomy for sailboating, but there can be surprises. The two people aboard are older than us and are both way heavier than most people we see coming off dinghies in marinas. If you had to guess you'd say a motor vessel, not a sailboat.

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This boat pulled in a few days ago, 48-ft. long, probably the largest boat here on a mooring ball. Carol was aghast that the couple is in no danger of seeing 40 for several years. She couldn't construct a scenario where people that young had both the time to cruise and money to do it on a boat like this.

Tomorrow is Sunday. We plan on heading south to Ft. Lauderdale and arriving on Monday. Barring that, if the weather has not calmed down, we'll go Monday and arrive Tuesday.

Posted by sailziveli 16:16 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Florida Farrago

We arrived at Ft. Pierce on Saturday morning. Saturday and Sunday were for rest and recovery from the run south, much needed. Also I was trying to get a heating pad to get my left leg to work a little bit better; walking has been challenging and slow when compared to Carol and her Seven League legs that go forever.

Monday and Tuesday were work days. On the trip south we noticed that the main sail had some slack on the luff (forward) edge despite having tightened the halyard. Beyond the issue of sailing efficiency, there were some serious concerns about this; so we tried to tackle the problem. Step one: send me 4.5 stories up the mast to look at "things." Sure enough, the hoist car was not topped out. So, there were several calls to Charleston Spar, which produced the mast, located, of course, in Charlotte, NC. Their technical guy and I decided that an extra shackle in the rigging might be the cause. Down came the sail, apart came the furling mechanism and off came the shackle; the knot was so tight that I had to cut it out. Amazingly, improbably, everything went back together properly. For the time being it appears that we have proper tension on the sail. But, it had not yet been tested on the open water. The neat thing about being up the mast was watching Carol mis-secure the line which was holding me aloft. Had I not had a secure hold on the upper spreaders I would have plummeted to the deck like one of Less Nesman's Thanksgiving Turkeys. [[http://radio.about.com/od/thanksgivingradio/a/WKRP-In-Cincinnati-Turkey-Drop-Episode.htm|
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So, having been up to the top a few times and, also, having seen what Carol can do, I decided that it was time to rig a second halyard to use as a safety line, something that I should have done 3 years ago when I first bought the bos'n's chair. We spent a days and a half doing this before we got underway south. The view is pretty good from up there.

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On Tuesday night a couple arrived for the boat right next to us, an older guy and a younger woman. The young woman was, at least from the neck down, serious eye candy. The next morning I was out getting ready to leave and the guy was cleaning the boat, the young woman nowhere to be seen that morning, presumably still abed. Since Carol had been up and working for about two hours it made me think that there is much to be said In Praise of Older Women: [[http://bertc.com/subfour/truth/inpraise.htm Check it out.

On Wednesday we headed north to the Vero Beach City Marina mooring field. With the tide in our favor and a good tail wind we made the 12 nm trip in about two hours. Last year they stuck us at the very north end of the marina in the mangrove swamp; this year they put us at the very south end of the marina right next to the bridge over the Indian River/ICW. There is some highway noise but at night it's not too bad.

Thursday was the work day for the shaft seal leak or whatever is happening. I tightened all of the hose clamps some of which were able to take half a turn. Then we dried everything completely and spread paper towels under the whole mechanism to pinpoint any leaks. We ran the engine, in gear, for almost an hour and .... nada! Very frustrating. Maybe the hose clamps were the issue, maybe not. Intermittent problems really suck!

The new outboard motor has been its own challenge. When we put it in the water it started on the second pull, really good. At the dinghy dock, coming back, not so lucky. So then began the search for the owners manual, not where it belonged and nowhere to be found until Carol looked where it didn't belong and found it about an hour later. It has fuel injection so priming a hot motor flooded it. All this new stuff to learn. Now, we have been trying to figure out how to tilt the motor out of the water when not in use; this keeps green stuff from growing in the cooling lines. There's a fair chance that the problem is operator error, but that's not a given. The thing weighs so much, over 80 pounds, that it is a struggle to tilt it up and hold it there while trouble shooting the latch mechanism. Follow on: probably operator error; it will tilt and lock but requires an arcane choreography to make it happen. Carol has not yet worked with this motor; she was generally competent with the old one but will be challenged to understand this one.

This is the first time on the trip, less than two weeks old, that we have really been in the boating mode, not tethered to the dock with yellow electrical cables. So electrical consumption and holding tanks are part of every day. The refrigerator just seems to use too much power; it's rated at 5 watts and sometimes uses more than 9 watts and cycles way too often. Carol just defrosted and that has not made any appreciable difference; we've checked the settings to make sure that they're not too cold. No help. I guess that we'll have to have someone look at the compressor; it's about nine years old and may be failing. We've actually had to run the engine a couple of times to recharge the batteries; solar panels don't work well with clouds and dark; calm days don't help the wind generator.

We went out today and rode the bus to a shopping area. It's hard to believe that we two can actually cause a drop of the average age in any crowd ... but here we do. Vero Beach is serious geezer country, at least in the winter months.

On Friday Jean and Les met us at the marina for a weekend visit at their place. It was a very nice time, a couple of nice restaurants, a little shopping for boat provisions and a lot of doing not very much. Les and I watched the Super Bowl despite the fact that his beloved New York Football Giants and Da' Bears were not playing. It's good when family are the people you would also pick for friends.

A front came through last night .... we went to bed and the boat was pointed south and it was 75 degrees; we woke up and the boat was pointed north and it was 50 degrees. So, it's about time to head south. My unscientific observation is that you have to be south of Palm Beach to be fairly safe from cold weather, so we'll head south to Ft. Lauderdale in the next day or two, maybe, if the weather looks right and my order arrives and there is room at the inn.

Posted by sailziveli 13:30 Comments (0)

We Made It!

sunny 70 °F

Well, we got underway from Brunswick on Thursday. It was cold, maybe 35~36, and dark when we left. But we were not the first boat out. That was the Bug Catcher, a small shrimper. The good thing about the marina in the East River is that you can go a mile or two without paying too much attention to navigation marks while you wait for the sun to rise. We caught the tide as planned everything was going great until the glass panels of the newly enclosed cockpit started to fog up. We, of course, didn't think about the defroster option. So Carol wiped and I squinted as we headed for open water.

The trip was interesting .... either too much or too little wind, not at all what the weather forecasts indicated. I had thought that we would sail the whole way; in the event the motor ran the whole way and the sails provided an occasional modest assist. Both nights for about six hours it blew, 20~30 knots. The thing that was strange to me was the sea's surface. With that much wind I expected to see lots of whitecaps and foaming water; there was very little and I would not have believed the anemometer save for the way the boat was behaving. The first night these heavy winds were on the stern corner, almost, but not quite, from behind. This is a difficult wind to sail because unless you're really good, you can get an accidental jibe where the boom swings rapidly from one side to the other causing all sorts of damage; our boom has a scar to prove it. The wind had the boat pitching, fore and aft, as well as wallowing side to side. If Carol and I had not used the seasickness patches it could have been a really ugly, messy night. No amusement park rides can capture that particular sensation, and why would they want to? The next night the winds were even worse, but on the beam. It was so rough that with the sails up, first the auto-pilot, then Carol and finally I was unable to manage the weather helm. We'd get the boat on course, say 160 degrees, and in a nonce we would be headed 270 degrees, straight into the wind. Both nights we quit trying and took in the sails. Lessons learned and remembered .... our auto pilot cannot handle winds much above 15 knots and, apparently, neither can the captain or crew.

The only tense moment of the trip came on Friday night during the very high winds. We heard a strange noise coming from an area where there was nothing to make noise. Then it dawned on me that I had the wind generator on in anticipation of sailing, not motoring. This was majorly not too bright. It was going so fast and vibrating so much that if it didn't rip free from the boat, then we were going to fly rather than sail. My first thought was to shut it off; so, I crawled out of the cockpit and hung on to the pulpit to get it turned off. Even then it sounded bad. So once more into the breach .... I climbed out and up the stanchion and got it physically stopped and then used a piece of velcro to secure a blade. It worked. This was a pale attenuation of what it must have been like in the rigging of canvas powered ships, but it was more than enough excitement for me. And I did have a safety harness and life jacket on.

Other than the first morning with the condensation, the canvas surround was great. The first night was cold; I had on everything warm that I owned, pajamas mixed with polar fleece, without regard to Carol's sensitivity to color and style. All I needed was another day without showering or shaving and Carol would have thrown all my stuff into a three wheeled grocery cart and sent out onto the street to live.The next day broke warm with clear skies and the solarium did its trick ... a tee shirt was good enough. It was so nice that I may start a Sailing Naked Club. That could make for some interesting blog posts and Facebook updates of sailors baring all.

This was a good shakedown cruise. In the main, though, if I could have had Scotty beam the boat and us down to Ft. Pierce, I would gladly have done it. Barring that, I-95 would have been faster and the bathrooms are bigger. So, we got to check out a bunch of stuff to see how well we did.

  • The engine ran for more than 50 hours straight and didn't quit. So maybe the new starter did the trick.
  • There was some pretty rough weather; the davits and the dinghy came through without an issue.
  • The enclosure was great. But it changed things, e.g. all the hand holds we had used are now outside the canvas. We will have to adapt to it.
  • The dripless shaft seal? I checked the engine after every watch and everything was always dry. Somewhere in the last few hours we got some water on board, not much, and I'm not sure how.

Carol deserves some credit. She always fixes a meal for dinner, not fancy but substantial. Many a time we have both eaten straight form the pot in which something was cooked, dirtying only two forks. But, sometimes, it seems to me that she grocery shops in thrift stores for army surplus WWI MRE's. She always has a great reason for the choice, "Well, the doughboys in the A.E.F. spoke very highly of it and it was quick to prepare." At times like these we need Wile E eliminate the point of contention.

We covered a fair amount of territory spending most of our time 20~25 miles off shore. And not once, in the whole trip, were we in water deeper that 95 feet.

We have followed Dawn's injunction that after any overnight cruise of any duration, you should stop someplace where they are no security issues, e.g. anchors dragging. So, Carol and I are, once again, at the Ft. Pierce City Marina, where I stayed month while Carol looked after Joan in 2009. Dawn's advice was good; we both slept about 12 hours after having slept a total of 4~5 hours in the two previous nights.

If there are 100 boats in this marina, there are no more than ten sailboats. They put us on a transient dock, not much used, I guess, because the layer of Pelican poop was deep and crusty except for the top layer which was very fresh. I actually hosed down the dock first so that we would not track said P.P. back onto the boat, a first at any marina at which we have stayed.
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In this marina, our little boat is like a Yugo hatchback at a Cadillac convention. About half the boats here seem to be for off shore charter fishing; the rest seem to be boy's toys, markers in the testosterone driven belief that size really does matter, at least in boats. The marina's saving grace is a great location and that every Saturday they have a high end farmer's market and craft fair. There are several little restaurants within walking distance, including a Greek joint that we much enjoy.

Ziveli in repose.

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Posted by sailziveli 09:47 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Liftoff 2011

sunny 36 °F

The boat went back into the water a week ago. We have been working to try to get ready to get underway and to ensure that the boat is ready to do so. It seems strange. A couple of years ago we knew bupkis about the boat and boating and had no trepidations about leaving; we were dumb and happy. Now, having two years of cruising experience and having learned lots about all aspects of boating, it's harder to pull the trigger. We are more aware of the issues and fail points and what could go wrong. It's a boat so there are no guarantees; it may not go but it won't sink, we hope.

Anyway, we've been running the boat and checking things out. The problems that we have found have been minor. A small oil leak ... time to tighten a few bolts on the oil pan. The fuel gauge did not work .... we checked with Beneteau to see if switched sender wires could be the problem (it could) and that there would not be an explosion if that was not the problem (the system is low voltage). Changing the wires worked and the boat didn't blow up. The shower drain would not work. It took a few hours to trace the problem: about 10-pounds of red dog hair at a narrow junction point. Wile E will be part of this boat long after the call has come for the sea to give up its dead.

Two new things to add to the worry list: the transmission has made very strange sounds a couple of times when moving into reverse; we seem to have a very small cooling system leak near the water heater. I think that it has been there a long time but worry that the drop a day could become a gusher.

So now the most pressing things to do prior to leaving are to (1) remember to return the library books and (2) convince Carol that the boat is not a democracy, where everyone has free speech and gets a vote, and it's not the book club where everyone's feelings matter. She still struggles with the captain/crew roles. The other day she informed me that the thing that I least wanted to happen had, in fact, happened. On the boat the phrase, the thing that I least wanted to happen, covers a lot of territory and encompasses a lot of serious downside. In this case it meant that Carol continued to keep her cosmetics in the head, above the toilet. She had ignored my admonition to keep the lid closed, imagine that, and a tube of lipstick had gone into the toilet, down and around the corner. It was small enough to slide down easily; it was big enough that it could not be retrieved. So, the net result was a full day devoted to disassembling the toilet and, while I was at it, doing a complete rebuild.

We've been enjoying the new canvas around the cockpit. Carol has insisted on dinner up there several times; we had folks over for drinks one night, a sort of memorial for Ed; he would have approved. Ray and Susan came over the other day. He looks pretty good; he's put on a little weight; he's half-way through chemo. We're pulling for him, but not to worry; he's a former recon marine and they're way tougher than cancer.

On Monday, 01/24, we went for a test drive, a mile or so down the East River and back. Everything seemed to work really well. We've taken on the extra water and fuel in the jerry cans; everything is secured. So it's just a matter of weather. It's about 230 straight line nautical miles to Vero Beach; so, it will take something in the area of 48 hours to get to there. With transit time to and from the sea buoys .... three days, two nights on an ocean cruise. And, the tickets are free since we own the cruise line. What could be better than that!

The work/preparation was done Monday; Tuesday we got 40 days and nights of rain in about 12 hours; Wednesday it BLEW! ... 30~35 knots in the morning. So today, Thursday, is the day. We sail on the tide (I've always wanted to say that) at dawn's first light, about 0645. Actually, we'll motor for a few hours until we get to open water and then run out the sails. It's a bit of dramatic license but I feel like I've earned it.

Posted by sailziveli 05:39 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Beached Whale

It's deja vu, all over again.

  • Last year we got to the boat in early December. In January we still had not departed. Ditto that!
  • Last January, we had to have the boat hauled for work regarding the propeller shaft seal. Ditto that!
  • Last year our stay in Brunswick was bitterly cold. Ditto that!
  • Last year the cold weather precluded our starting south. Ditto that!
  • Last year Carol and I spent time at Joan's, broken ribs, this year, repairs. Ditto that!

Carol and I seem to be condemned to repeat the past despite not having forgotten it.

On Tuesday, 12/28/10 we had the boat towed to the yard and it was hauled.

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The repair was complicated, time consuming and will probably have cost more than the GDP of many small countries, e.g. Burkina Faso. I told Carol not to tell me what the bill was. Basically, everything from the transmission to the propeller was replaced: shaft, seals, bearings and all parts through which these traverse. If the repair was done well, not a given at this boatyard, there will be, maybe, a swallow of lemonade: a dripless shaft seal that really does not leak, something that we have not had during our ownership period; enough room on the propeller shaft to attach a large sacrificial zinc, which will need replacing less often than the present arrangement. And in the tearing the boat apart two other problems surfaced, one very serious, which were repaired.

Since Carol and I were not able to stay on the boat, we imposed on others for bed and board. We did go to see Mom over Christmas, very snowy, very cold. We have been at Carol's sister's, Joan, for almost three weeks. Fortunately, Joan is a very nice and gracious lady and didn't kick us out. The high point for the holidays was Carol infecting everyone with a wicked cold. The only possible relief would have been a quick trip to Afghanistan where some mad mullah would have performed an anodyne decapitation on an infidel. Unfortunately, we left our passports on the boat, so we stayed here and suffered.

Before the boat was hauled, I was in a dinghy doing some cleaning on the hull; the boat was bow in so the stern of the boat was visible. A guy, who was out rowing in his dinghy, rowed over and asked me if we spoke Serbo-Croation, having seen the boat's name, and being from the former Yugoslavian area. We allowed that our vocabulary was the single word: Ziveli. He told us that Ziveli is not a noun form, life, but a verb form, live, which I like even more. Regardless, we all agreed that Ziveli is a good injunction and a good name for a boat. This was made more poignant when we received the news that Ed, our boat neighbor and good friend, had died. He was my age; it was his heart. This was a mirror whose reflection was very uncomfortable. And, since Ed's boat is 5-ft. away, we look into that mirror many times a day.

On Tuesday, 01/18/11, the boat went back in the water, three weeks to the day. The engine has to aligned to the new propeller shaft, yet to be done, a final step which could be simple or not. We have to combobulate the boat, get supplies and all. Heading south ... who knows? The best case scenario is sometime the week of 01/23.

Posted by sailziveli 16:03 Comments (0)

Preflight 2010

Well, after a nice summer and Fall at the house, we're back on the boat. Last year, our time on the boat seemed to me to have started in farce: how many really stupid things can one 63-year old man do? The answer, not wanting to be prideful or to brag about large numbers, was, qualitatively, a lot. The good news is that the question is self-liquidating: I am now 64 and and my aspirations for this year do not include breaking any more body parts or challenging any brand, large or small, of SUV.

This year, for a new trick, rather than destroying my body, I have focused on detroying the boat.

  • The alternator belt has always been difficult to change since the new alternator was added in 2009. So, I discovered that if I removed a single bolt and a couple of nuts that I could increase the swing, maybe 2-inches, and put on new belts easily. I neglected to notice that on the back of the alternator were many wires, 5 actually, that only had enough slack to move 1-inch. They were all ripped out. Fortunately, the repair was not too difficult once we located an electrician with a wire stretcher. All is now well.
  • The boat has always had a leaking problem around the propeller shaft, never critical, always annoying. One of the hose clamps, stainless steel no less, rusted through and broke. In tightening the new hose clamp, so it would not leak, I crushed the fiberglass tube onto which the packing gland went. HAY UNA GRANDE PROBLEMA! We are dead in the water, waiting for parts.

If the sailing year started in farce it ended on a more somber note when we returned to the house. Once again Carol and I were both reminded of two of life's ineluctable truths: the number of our days cannot be known and none of us is promised any tomorrow. It's strange the way that these messages have always seemed to come to us in pairs, one addressed to her, one to me, always very close together in time. These events seem to focus the mind on what matters and what doesn't, creating a sort of pellucid Pareto chart, as if one were needed, with only two columns: the people we love and the miracle of one more sunrise.

We have owned the boat for three years, having bought it in August, 2007. If the romance of boat ownership faded after the first two years, the romance of cruising similarly passed this last year. The boat is now, simply, a thing having no real intrinsic value as such. It has become for us a medium, a way to live out a shared dream, doing something together, sharing new experiences, making new memories while we can before our bodies betray us in part or in all.

Cruisers, at least while on their boats, are placeless people. So, when they congregate in an anchorage or a marina, propinquity is a good enough reason to form an ad hoc community. Our dock #4 was a good example of such a community, one which we celebrated and enjoyed on our return to Brunswick this past May. To our regret, the ad hoc part has happened. Bruce and Dawn sold their boat and bought a house in Bentonville, AK. Larry has also decided to sell his boat and is in Antarctica, as if Brunswick was not really cold enough for him. Alejandro, new to the dock, was going to sail for his home, Columbia, on June 1st, then July 1st and then August 1st. His boat is still here but we haven't seen him in a while, maybe visa issues. Ray, a dock #4 boat neighbor, is another reminder of life's lessons. He had two dreams: to live in a log cabin and to sail his boat in the Caribbean. He had moved from his cabin to Brunswick on his boat, which he and Susan had just finished painting and preparing for his retirement and sailing south. Ray was just diagnosed with cancer. Ed, who lives in Bozeman, MT, has been on his boat a lot. As a United Airlines retiree, he flies around the country about like Scotty beamed around Capt. Kirk. But, in total, walking down the dock has become a less happy experience.

We have made a lot of changes to the boat this year, the benefits of two years of cruising and getting some major stuff wrong and other stuff not right.

  • After the engine problems last year we had a Westerbeke trained mechanic look at the engine, primarily to address the starter issue. We did change the starter which, maybe, needed to be changed. The old one was rebuilt an kept as a spare. As a throwaway, I asked him to look at he cooling system, always a concern. Lucky thing! Several small problems and one major one that would just have shut us down.
  • We put new canvas on the boat, green again. It has 100% UV protection, good for Carol, and it goes all the way around the cockpit, a boon for cold weather. It's like having a solarium added onto the boat. For all the good it does, I don't know what we'll do when we get to warm weather; it does restrict access and movement.PC150488.jpg
  • Since the proximate cause of the "troubles" in the Berry Islands was the dinghy, I installed a davit system to hold the dinghy. For two years we tried every other possible solution, none of which worked well, most worked not at all. This is going to be great but it is one more new thing with which to deal.PC150487.jpg
  • We got a larger O/B motor, 8-HP, the largest size our dinghy can accommodate. The small one, which we sold, just could not conquer currents or distance. This year, we hope, we will be able to anchor the boat and use it as a base with the dinghy to explore other islands a mile or three distant. A good theory, anyway.

The amount of electronic stuff we have on the boat is, almost, overwhelming. We have top side and in cabin navigation stations that also do radar; for emergencies we keep two hand held GPS units. The radios are: a SSB (single side band) which is, more or less, a short wave radio; there is an installed VHF radio with a cockpit remote unit; we also have an hand held, battery powered VHF radio. We also have an AM/FM/CD/iPod "car radio." Phones are fun so we have three: a cellular for stateside use and another for the Bahamas; given the problems last year, we added a satellite phone. Computers, one for XM Weather the other with a data card to receive data over the cell network. An iPod and an iPad round out the collection. Of course all of these are thirsty suckers so all of our 12vDC outlets have one-to-many adapters each adapter servicing one thing or another. Since the boat is small I like to keep it fairly uncluttered to keep from getting claustrophobia; but with all of these gadgets, as well as other appliances, and their cords it seems like we have cabin kudzu threatening to take over the boat.

We waited for a part for the boat, made in France. It was late in arriving so Carol and I drove to Marion, SC to pick it up at the Beneteau factory. They offered a tour of the plant which we enjoyed. There is a massive amount of floor space, but this is not apparent from the outside. I have walked lots of factory floors the world over, but I was surprised to see an indoor pool big enough to accommodate two 50-ft. boats. It has not been a good couple of years; their production is down about 60% from 2007.

Boating can seem a very small world. In October we were in Oriental, NC to visit and have lunch with friends there. While waiting for them to arrive I was walking on the dock in the harbor, looking at boats. There was a man topside on his boat and we struck up a conversation. A few minutes later he gasped, "Are you the guy from the Berry Islands?" My reply was, "Is this the Fine Lion?" Yes to both. Steve was the guy who called BASRA on his satellite phone when our boat went dead electrically. We were both at the same place many months and many miles later.

Carol and I have adapted fairly well to the living space on the boat. The first time we stayed on the boat it seemed like we were in a broom closet, mostly, because it is about the size of a broom closet. Now, it seems, if not comfortable, familiar. If living space is not a problem, then storage space is. Accretion is an issue and only some of the accretion is core to the boat. Regardless, the more stuff that we lard onto the boat, the more difficult it is to access any other thing, since the thing we need NOW is ALWAYS behind or beneath some other thing. The imbrication involved in reaching anything is frustrating.

Today, Thursday, 12/16/10, was the weather window for which we waited 10 days. We should be slashing our way south in 15 knot winds, close hauled, warm and dry in our new canvas enclosure. Instead, we're at the dock, hoping parts arrive for a complicated repair and that we will be able to leave early in January. The boat has to come out of the water so we cannot stay on board while the repair is being made. It looks like a couple of weeks of being itinerant.

Posted by sailziveli 08:53 Comments (0)

Seems Like Old Times

2010 Blog Sign Off

We arrived in Brunswick just after lunch on Tuesday, May 11th. We had called ahead for a slip assignment and Cindy said it was on dock #4, where we had been, and on the north side, also where we had been. As we neared dock #4 Carol looked to see if Ray & Susan's New Wind was still there; it was. When we rounded the corner to pull into the slip, we saw Cindy waving us to the same one we had left several months before. When we had moored there were hugs and smiles all around.

Bruce was on the dock; he and Dawn had returned from the Bahamas a week ago into the same slip across from ours. Ed was on the dock also; he and Lilly, our starboard side neighbors, had just arrived the day before from their new home in Montana. Robert was still two boats over on our port side; Larry two more slips down from Robert. The same faces were in the same places. The only change was that Jim had left in Aguila, but he too may come back.

Sundowners were scheduled for a little after 5 PM (it's only 1700 while the boat is away from port). There were probably 15~20 people there including some new folks from adjacent docks. Stories were told, all true: no need to lie if you own a boat. everybody got caught with what's been going on. There was even a golden Lab that was busy chasing an old yellow tennis ball. It was truly a good time and great to see that everyone is still doing well.

Carol and I will spend some time here. We've rented a storage locker and plan to strip the boat of much of the top side stuff, e.g. the dinghy and motor, extra anchors, etc. The punch list of things to do, things to buy and things to have checked by professionals has really grown over the last few weeks. We will be able to stay as busy on the boat as we want.

On one level, functional, the trip was a success: we got there and we got back; the boat didn't sink and we didn't drown. Carol and I have talked about the trip as we made our way north. Our conclusion is that there were some great, wonderful moments but that the frustrations with the weather, the boat problems and such probably outweighed the fun.

So, we're looking at this as a sort of shake down cruise. While we got a lot of stuff right or approximately right, we also identified many issues that we will do differently next year. Our preparations will be different; what we bring will be different, lots less of some things, including, Carol agrees, her clothes. There will be many, many more spare boat parts the next trip.

It seems like there are three phases to cruiser's lives: preparing for a cruise, cruising, recovering from a cruise. Yesterday we ended the cruising phase for this season and have, simultaneously, started the other two.

To be continued in December, 2010.

Posted by sailziveli 03:11 Comments (0)

Heading North

After a good night's sleep to recover from the two day trip from Marsh Harbour, we went through the required immigration stuff to get ourselves legally back in the country. It wasn't an onerous procedure but it still had its complications which, due to Carol's patience, we survived. The guys all had guns after all, so keeping me quiet was a good idea.

We rather thought that we had just a few days of dull and boring ahead of us as we motored north, that we had left excitement at the waters edge of the coast. Inland waters are easy.

We got underway about noon for a short days cruise to Titusville, less than 20 nm. All of the assumed easy was true for about 20 minutes. While we were waiting for a bascule bridge to open the engine overheating alarm sounded. So, off goes the engine, Carol got the big anchor down, and I put out a security warning on VHF 16. There were lots of possible reasons for the engine to overheat, most of them bad, and I had no idea what I would see when I opened the engine compartment. It was good news, of a left handed kind: the alternator belt, which also turns the raw water pump for the cooling system, was hanging in shreds. We got out one of several spares, the socket set and several wrenches; I have all the nut/bolt sizes labeled and memorized. In 15 minutes the engine was running and the anchor was up. It was almost a pleasure to have a problem that could be easily identified and repaired.

Just to ensure that the day didn't actually become boring, two squall lines hit us, about an hour apart; one from the NE and the second from the west. Both had winds in excess of 35 knots and at one point, for about a minute, the boat was actually being pushed backwards by the wind. High winds are much more easily handled on the open water where the period of the waves is usually much greater, but we through both of them with no problems other than at the end of the day my hands actually ached from squeezing the helm.

We arrived at Titusville without further events on Thursday.

Friday should have been a dull and boring run north to Daytona. In order to spice it up we decided to run hard aground just south of New Smyrna Beach. Dead center in the channel and the boat dug in hard and deep. We tried to get off with no success so call Tow Boat US to help us. Some big boats came by with large wakes which we used over several tries to make some head way and, finally broke free. Having watched all the other boats go hard by the green marker we headed there at were aground in another 100 yards. This time the bottom was soft and we were able to "plow" though it.

The run from Daytona to St. Augustine was interesting. We lost the channel and ran aground once but got off ourselves. We hit something in the water. We were in 13-ft. and felt a good solid thump and then saw a boil of water off the stern. It was either a porpoise or a manatee. Porpoises are quick and smart; manatees, not so much. So, it was probably the latter. The good news is that we hit it with the keel, not the propeller; so it was just shaken up, not cut.

The high point of the day was transiting Ft. Matanzas Inlet/River, the most notorious place on the Florida ICW for running aground. On the way south we left St. Augustine with four other sailboats. In the transit all four ran aground, but were able to free themselves. We hit bottom several times but never got stuck. I don't know why but I was intimidated by it this time; I expected the worst. So, in preparation I turned on the computer while underway and went to Cruisers net. There were several recent postings there about how to get through. When we went through it was almost dead low tide with 3.5~4.0 feet of barnacles showing on posts and pilings. It turned out to be mostly a non-event. We came close with water as low as 6.0 feet, but we probably had 9-inches to spare and never ran aground. Today, two days later, the USCG was announcing a notice to mariners about the same area with water as low as 3.0 feet at low tide. Good timing on our part.

When we hit St. Augustine on Saturday, it was way hot, over 90 degrees. Sunday morning a front had passed and the temperatures had dropped into the 60's and the winds were way up. We planned on getting underway Sunday morning but the winds and currents were so bad that after I talked to a few guys from the area that we decided to stay there an extra day. It was Mother's Day after all, so St. Augustine seemed like a good deal, which it was. Carol got the dinner of her choice, cheap, and a gift of her choosing, not cheap.

So, today, Monday morning, we had our first no-brainer transit of the Bridge of Lions and the St. Augustine inlet. About time! We're in Fernandina Beach on a mooring ball after a 60-mile run today. Tomorrow, sometime, we will hit Brunswick and the journey will be over.

Posted by sailziveli 16:18 Comments (1)

All's Well that Ends Well

Well, things turned out pretty good after a very bad several days. We have found ourselves depending on the kindness (and competency) of strangers and have not been disappointed. At some times in Nassau it seemed as if half the people we met were actually secret agents for the Bahamian tourist council and were dedicated to being nice to folks like us who, obviously, aren't from "around here."

When the tension level subsided, i.e. the boat was in working order and we had spare parts, we took an evening to have some fun and, at Carol's request, we visited Paradise Island and the Atlantis Hotel & Casino. On the casino side, which we visited, nothing was wagered so nothing was lost or gained. The hotel grounds were fascinating. There may have been as many as 10 to 20 acres of salt water pools filled with native fish. There was a seaquarium aspect where we viewed the pools from below ground level and there was even a below water level walkway with the ceiling being some sort of glass that gave the sense of actually being under water. It was way cool.
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One thing struck us about Nassau: security like we have never seen before. We went to many restaurants, stores to get stuff for the boat, and stores for sundry provisions. Almost every place had the door locked and a buzzer to unlock when a plain sight observation had been made of the entrants. Many others had an unarmed security guards at the door. Then, of course, there were a lot of places that had both. We saw more concertina wire per square mile than Guantanamo Bay has. The local paper in Nassau said that murders were running at a record pace this year with about 23 so far for 2010. There must be a huge crime problem.

That evening Carol was struck by this sunset. Later, after going to bed and turning out the lights, the fireworks began. Not those fireworks, the real ones. We told that when somebody wins big at the Atlantis Casino, fireworks get fired off. It's a good story anyway.
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We had thought to get underway on Thursday but the wind's angle would have problematic to head north, so we stayed an extra day to perform our 100 engine hour maintenance schedule: filters, strainers, fluids, belts, etc.

Friday was a good day for sailing, so we did, getting underway about 1000 and having sails up and the engine off before before 1030. We had a 95-mile straight run NNE to the Abacos, the northern 1/3 of the Bahamas. I had planned our speed/distance calculation to get us there at first light the next day. There was so much more wind than forecast, 15~25 knots, that we actually had to sail with reefed sails to slow the boat down to about 5 knots, something that I never thought we would do. I'm not saying that it was rough, but this was the first time that I have ever made us wear our safety vests and tethers in daylight.

This is the lighthouse at the entrance of Nassau harbour. There seems to me something romantic about lighthouses, a point of nexus to an earlier time when a light in the dark of night showed a safe harbor or the way to a safe passage. They seem to be, today, anachronistic with the pervasiveness of GPS navigation systems. Of course that sentiment was before we had to hit the harbor without any navigation system other than the handheld GPS.
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We arrived at north Man-O-War Channel right about sunrise and were greeted with an unusual sight, to us anyway. On a Saturday morning, about 0730, there were about 20 huge, white sport fishing boats clustered offshore near a channel to the south. As if on signal each powered off in a separate direction, like roaches scattering in the light. My best guess: some sort of fishing tournament.

We motored the last five miles to Marsh Harbour, the principal city on Great Abaco Island. Carol prefers that we stay in a marina after an overnight cruise so that we can rest and recover without having to worry about the anchor dragging, a sensible plan for older folks.

The sensible plan was made better when I noticed that the engine was vibrating way too much, despite having tightened the motor mount nuts and bolts. My thought that there two possible problems: a clogged fuel injector causing the engine to run rough, or the engine was out of alignment with the propeller shaft. When we moored I asked the dock master for the name of a reliable diesel mechanic. I called Basil and he came by about 15 minutes later for a consultation. His verdict: the injectors are OK but the engine needs to be aligned. Not too much of a surprise.

We are staying at the Conch Inn Marina. No plan, it was just the phone number that Carol decided to dial. This marina is quite different from any others at which we have stayed. If there are 60 boats here, less than a dozen are private craft, not available for charter. Most of the boats here are for charter under the aegis of The Moorings, a company with which Carol and I are familiar. When we spent a week on a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands, arguably the best week of our lives until then, and definitely the genesis our our current peregrinations, it was through the The Moorings. Also The Moorings uses Beneteaus exclusively for mono-hulls and when we bought our Beneteau part of the due diligence was to ensure that it had never been out for charter. We glommed on to a brochure about chartering vessels. The going daily charter rate for our boat, newer and shinier, but not so well equipped, would be a minimum of $400~$450 per day. Since we're approaching 90 days on the boat, this comparison is the only one that I've ever seen that makes owning a boat seem economical.

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So, on Monday morning, as promised, Basil arrives with his partner, Michael. If these guys ever get tired of crawling around in tight spaces, they could auction themselves off as a pair of interior linemen in the NFL. They dutifully aligned the engine and then Basil recanted his comments about the fuel injectors being OK. He thought that the fuel injector pump could be having issues.

After lunch Carol and I had one of the conversations that can only be had after about the first 40 years together. To wit, if the engine is a risk, where is the best place to manage that risk. Quite easily we agreed that the USA was better than the Bahamas.

How to get home? I thought to head straight to Brunswick from Marsh Harbour. Carol wanted to go south of the Abacos and head out from Freeport. In the end, we did neither, a compromise of sorts. The weather forecasts had the wind dying later in the week, and we do not carry enough fuel to motor for the 100 hours that might have been required. The irony of relying on an engine to get us somewhere so we can address that engine's unreliabilty was not lost on us.

After just a few hours we had the boat, and ourselves, ready to go and departed at 1630 and cleared the reef by 1830. We decided to go to Cape Canaveral which has is a Class A channel, a trip of some 200 straight line miles which caused us to travel well over 270 miles. No hay problema!

And there wasn't, until we were in the middle of the Gulf Stream, about 65 miles from shore. The unreliable engine, the object of all this, just quit. I tried to restart it one time and instead of blowing the fuses, as at Devil's Cay, it just about drained the batteries, still a bad deal. Maybe una probelma after all.

Not to worry. We had the wind and it was cranking the wind generator and the batteries were recharging. We planned to sail to the channel entrance and then have Tow Boat US tow us in. That plan was working pretty well until we were about 30 miles off the coast. The wind died, we were too far from shore to use the VHF radio and there was no cell signal that far out. It was Devil's Cay deja vu all over again, a sick feeling.

After an impatient several hours, I decided that we needed to try to restart the engine. This time the three electrical switches for which I had much cussed Beneteau, came in handy, because I was able to isolate the house side of the batteries and remove the risk of them draining. Still no luck with the engine but no damage to the other batteries. Then I remembered a small, obscure reset switch on the back of the engine. We hit it and, a miracle, the der diesel started and we were able to make it thought the channel almost all the way to the ICW, near Cocoa, FL.

We'll clear Customs & Immigration and the putt-putt up the ICW to Brunswick, arriving there some time next week.

Posted by sailziveli 05:45 Comments (1)

Used Sailboat for Sale!!!!

No Unreasonable Offer Refused

Sometimes even boats have bad days, occasionally getting a nudge in that direction from the captain and crew.

We were about to get underway on Friday for Devil’s Cay, a relatively sort 23 nm jaunt. I heard the bilge pump cycle; no big deal, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Then, about 5 minutes later, I heard it cycle again, not a good sign; it’s never done that. Sure enough, there was water everywhere. A quick turn on the nearest through hull did nothing so we checked forward of the mast where the two transducers, speed and depth, are located. Each has a threaded locking ring and the ring on the speed transducer was loose and water was just pouring in. It was a very simple fix but a sad harbinger of things to come.

We got to Devils Cay with no problem and tried to set our big Manson anchor; several tries later it was clear that there was no way it was going to set. So, Carol putted around in circles while I switched to the Fortress Danforth anchor. It set, sort of, but not very well. I was backing the boat down to try to get the anchor a better purchase when, once again, predictably, chaos ensued.

The floating, polypropelene dinghy painter, somehow, got drawn into the propeller and stalled the motor; the boat, by the way, was still not well anchored and was dragging. Now we have no power; so, into the water I went to cut the line free from the propeller and shaft. This took a little while but was not a major problem other than our traveling companions, the barnacles, which shredded my back and arms. When I tried to restart the engine …. Nothing! The boat was electrically dead …. No motor, no refrigeration, no circuits were working, especially neither of the radios.

This was looking pretty bad, and the boat was still not well anchored. So, using the dinghy, we put out a second anchor that seemed, in combination with the Fortress , to hold. We were majorly S.O.L.

There were two other boats in the anchorage and one of the boats had come by to offer assistance. We were out of cell range and the big VHF radio was dead as was the SSB. I took the dinghy over to their boat and, miracle #1, Steve on the Fine Lion had a satellite phone which he used to call BASRA (Bahamian Air Sea Rescue Assoc.)

While we’re waiting for BASRA, Carol and I are furiously working on what I thought was the fail point: an on/off switch which can block the ground and shut the entire boat down. I had a couple of spares all of which we tried with no luck. The boat was still dead.

BASRA #1 – Chester showed up about an hour later from Little Harbor, a few miles to the south of Devils Cay. We tried a few things electrical, none of them doing any good. So after discussing our options we decided that if Chester could drag us the ½ mile to open water we would sail to Nassau, about 40 miles against a tough wind, which meant going well over 50 miles with tacking.

Chester, good to his word, got us to open water with enough wind in the sails to make way. So, off we go …. No navigation equipment except a small hand held GPS unit, no navigation lights, no compass light, headed toward a very busy harbor and no radio other than a small handheld VHF unit with a not too great battery which we have to save for when we near Nassau. The cell phone had no chance to work ….. we were tens of miles away from a signal and cannot recharge the unit and were very low on minutes.

We sailed for about eight hours, including two long tacks to get a decent line to the east of the harbor, before I took our first GPS fix. It was miracle #2: from our position, the wind would allow us to hold a line to the harbor entrance and, when we arrived, we were only about ½ mile from the channel and on the correct side, the east, which meant that we could bear away from the wind and nail it, if only we had a motor that would go.

BASRA #2 – We had asked Chester to contact the Nassau office to let them know that we were heading to Nassau under sail and would arrive sometime after sunrise and would need a tow into the harbor. We arrived a little before 0800 and waited to call BASRA. They were PO’ed at us. Somehow, in a classic failure to communicate, a boat had been sent from Nassau to Devils Cay to tow us to Nassau, and they were blaming us for screwing up and wasting their time and money. No one would come out to tow us in and there’s no way that I could have sailed the boat into that harbor, maintained control and anchored; the wind was wrong and I had never been into that harbor before. I’ve been at the helm the whole way, almost 24 straight hours, and I’m 63 and feeling every year of it. The VHF radio battery was gone and the cell phone battery was fading fast, the captain was fading fast, we still had no motor and no plan and were quickly loosing our ability to communicate.

I don’t know what happened behind the scenes but, eventually, the Bahamian Coast Guard came out to take us in; the two guys didn’t seem to happy about this but they got us through the channel and into the harbor. I thought that they would take us to the marina but they dropped us off at an anchorage and told us that this was all they could do, appreciated and all, but we’re never anchored a boat without power, and by the way there is no power to the anchor windlass, so we cannot use our chain rode, which added to the degree of difficulty.

But …. we were ready for this, sort of. We got a smaller spare anchor and hooked it up to a spare 200-ft. rode and over the bow it went. Miracle #3 … the anchor set right away and held with a pretty good wind backing the boat down. Off goes the BCG and we’re on our own again. We used the dinghy to set a 2d, bigger anchor using our spare 350-ft. rode; this one also set and held. It’s ironic that the best anchoring event we’re had in the whole trip was with no power. The other thing was that we had the right equipment in the right places and were able to use it under duress, a modest accomplishment but way better than the alternative.

I used the dinghy to get to the marina and pleaded with Dudley, the dock master, to get us towed to the marina. Since we had no power, if our anchors did not hold we were going to crash into a bridge, a sea wall or a cruise ship, all three bad alternatives. He located a young man, Gumm, who, with his boat, did, finally, get the boat into a slip. Secure at last, but the boat was still dead, no refrigeration, we could not even use the stove because the gas solenoid would not work.

Here’s where things got interesting and provided a bright side to an otherwise dismal sequence of events. Our boat neighbor, when he heard our story immediately gave us 10-lb’s of ice. Dudley called an electrician who came to the boat on Monday. When I Saw Gumm on the dock I said that I would have offered him a cold beer but we had no refrigeration. So, Gumm shows up about ½ hour later with an ice chest with a 25-lb. block of ice inside for us to use.

The proximate cause of the whole fiasco: two blown fuses, one 200 amps and the other 130 amps. The larger fuse shut down the house side and the smaller did the same for the engine starting circuits. I had done a visual inspection on both and they seemed OK. The only way to tell they were gone was with a continuity tester. The electrician found one problem and I located the other myself. Many, many lessons learned.

The boat, Lazarus-like, now works as it should. No shore power and we’re doing fine. The concern is whether this was a one off event, or are there other things working that could cause a remise. We did have spare fuses, one each, but we used those; sailing with no spares seemed like a bad idea.

So, off we went to buy some replacements. No luck at the electrical stores people suggested. We’re walking back to the boat planning on stopping in every marine store along the way. Carol sees a place and suggests that we try there. I said that I would wait while she wasted her time. Miracle #4: about 20 minutes later out she comes and tells me to come upstairs, which I do. Carol had barged into the office for the pilot boats which meet the large ships, including cruise ships, to guide them into the harbor. She has cornered the guy in charge of maintenance for all of the pilot boats. Poor Eugene has never encountered and could not prevail against a Nordic princess cum verbal tsunami like Carol. Long story short, he had someone going to the states to pick up parts for his boats and offered to get our fuses with his stuff.

BASRA #3 - We stopped by the BASRA office to make amends and to atone; we were told that when the facts finally became clear we had not been the cause of the problem. We made a donation and joined the Assoc. which we probably would have done anyway, but it seemed like the right gesture.

So, the boat works, we have parts, we’re rested and the sun is shining. We survived a difficult experience, met some wonderful people and, maybe, will keep the boat a while longer.

We haven't really spent any time enjoying Nassau other than a Domino's pizza and some Haagen-Daz; we've been consumed with getting the boat and ourselves ready to go. Where to go? We haven't decided. We have more boat tasks to complete today, Wednesday, 04/28. We'll leave the marina tomorrow and, depending on the wind and weather, head east to Eleuthera, north to the Abacos or just wait things out at anchor in the main harbor. We sort of plan to start heading back to Brunswick about mid-May hoping to get to the house in early June. But, as the sage said, "Man Plans, God Laughs."

Posted by sailziveli 04:34 Comments (0)

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